Shaq descends on Cuba to teach kids to play basketball | African-American News and Black History

All Day, Barack Obama, Basketball, Cuba, NBA, Politics, Shaquille O'Neal -

Shaq descends on Cuba to teach kids to play basketball

All Day, Barack Obama, Basketball, Cuba, NBA, Politics, Shaquille O'Neal -

Shaq descends on Cuba to teach kids to play basketball

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When President Barack Obama announced the beginning of normalized relations with Cuba just before Christmas of 2014, it was referred to as a thaw. Soon enough, tourists were showing up on the shores of Havana, and Major League Baseball was playing games there. Over the weekend, the U.S. Department of State sent our grandest human export to the communist nation as a sports envoy: NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal.

“The Diesel” was joined by Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Kaleb Canales, the first Mexican-American coach to ever lead a team in the NBA, when he served as the head coach of the Portland Trailblazers for 23 games in 2012. According to the State Department, the mission of the trip was to “demonstrate how sports can serve as a means of developing academic, leadership and teamwork skills,” as well as to “highlight the importance of social inclusion and respect for diversity.”

Photographs from the island nation of the 7-footer are tremendous. He’s not only lifting kids up to dunk, he’s also taking photos with random people. Imagine waiting effectively your whole life to see a country that’s been effectively isolated from an entire world for decades and running into O’Neal there. You’d take a picture, too.

“We just want to come over here and extend our friendly hand and just start smoothing things out,” O’Neal told The Associated Press. “It was great for [President Obama] to reopen the door, regain a better relationship with this beautiful island.” The plan is for O’Neal to do more than just shoot hoops. He’ll also be visiting historical sites and spreading his trademark cheer.

I guess we’ll have to call him “The Big Diplomatic” from here on out.


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